Photographer Javier A. Cerrada captures the beauty of drag performer Keil Li – on analog and interview.
I met Keil Li while she was performing at Tipsy Bear Berlin. The moment she came on stage, I was marvelled by this curvy figure singing her own song about finding themselves in the context of a refugee. In my eyes she seems to be the new glamours bomb. Like a full sized doll with full life talent.
Soon after the show was finished, we started to talk and I found myself fantasizing about photographing this glamorous queer personality. I realised this person is also an immigrant like me. A person who had had a life before in another country. A person who is not afraid to dream big. A person who is not afraid of being different, of standing out.
In order for you to know more about this person, I prepared five questions for Keil Li.
How did you arrive to Berlin? Why?
Well, first, I spent 2 years and a half on my papers in Libya to be able to come to Germany and experience freedom. I came here as a student and arrived in January-2017 in Kassel.
After 9 months, things started to go down, and I was illegal here. My only choice was to seek Asylum.
I’ve been moved to a small village in Thüringen, where it felt like a prison for me.
While I was waiting for the process of Asylum seeking to be over, I was visiting Berlin, as I have some friends there. I got with the time some contacts and started performing as a Drag Queen in Berlin.
By that time, I’ve already built a community and some friendships, where it felt like home and family.
I just felt that I belong here, and there is no other place to be.
When did you start doing drag?
My drag birth was exactly on the 25th December 2017 in Kassel.
The queer scene in Kassel is very limited, and we had just one big main queer party called Sinnlust by Betty Ford.
Although, I organised my own party there in May 2018 in a club called Arm. That party was where I got paid, and used that money to pay my ticket to Gießen, where I seeked Asylum.
The last time I was in Kassel was actually on the CSD of 2019.
I performed the first drag performance in Kassel queer history of Sinnlust, as it was uploaded on the Facebook page of the party.
Who/what is your inspiration?
How would that sound if I said; I don’t have an inspiration. I guess realistic. I believe I have my own belief system and mentality.
What is your idea of happiness?
I don’t have a specific idea of happiness, but I do have a different approach to life, and somehow realised that, that’s what is keeping me happy.
I learned from life, that I should not worry nor stress myself because of what’s happening around me.
Nothing stays forever. Nothing stays the same. When I love back, I find nothing but myself, who moved on and became who I am today.
At some point, things can’t be changed, so I learned to be accepting of what’s coming, and work with it slowly until reaching my life goals.
If not you, who would you be?
If not me, then the best of me.
I think it’s pointless spending energy on thinking about being someone else, where instead I can spend that same energy on thinking of improving myself in my own way.
I see myself a unique original creature.
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